The Dispossessed: Important quotes with page
1. “Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine. ” (Chapter 1, Page 2) The image that opens the novel shows the Port of Abbenay from two perspectives: it may be a structure that protects Anarresti, or one that imprisons them. Imprisonment is a major motif of the book. Throughout the text, it is suggested that prisons often look like freedom from the wrong vantage point.
2. “‘To lock out, to lock in, the same act,’ Shevek said, looking down at the doctor with light, remote eyes.” (Chapter 1, Page 11) Shevek’s dialogue introduces a perspective that he reiterates and refines throughout the text: that all borders create imprisonment. Furthermore, they lock in even those they are meant to include and protect.
3. “This matter of superiority and inferiority must be a central one in Urrasti social life. If to respect himself Kimoe had to consider half the human race inferior to him, how then did women manage to respect themselves—did they consider men inferior? And how did all that affect their sex lives? ” (Chapter 1, Page 18)
Shevek wonders how the division between the sexes operates practically and philosophically on Urras. He will encounter the idea of superiority repeatedly on Urras.
4. “‘Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it, you cannot use it. ’” (Chapter 2, Page 27) In the youth dormitory, an adult scolds Shevek for refusing to share. This introduces the reader to the operating principles of life on Anarres, and also emphasizes Shevek’s early difficulty in adhering to them.
5. “…I agree that it’s probably wise to fear Urras. But why hate? Hate’s not functional: why are we taught it? Could it be that if we knew what Urras was really like we’d like it—some of it—some of us? That what PDC wants to prevent is not just some of them homing here, but some of us wanting to go there? ” (Chapter 2, Page 44) Shevek’s friend, Kvetur, speculates on why the Anerrasti are taught to hate Urras. He speculates that “hate” is too strong an emotion, logically speaking; it must be taught because there is some element of fear towards Urras. In this dialogue, Shevek and his friends first imagine what life on Urras is like, opening the door for Shevek’s later exploration.
6. “The silence, the utter silence of Anarres: he thought of if at night. No birds sang there. There were no voices there but human voices. Silence, and the barren lands. ” (Chapter 3, Page 77) On Urras, Shevek hears birdsong for the first time. This simple image contrasts the abundance of life on Urras with the reality of Anarres’ drought, famine, and lack of abundance of species.
7. “The Odinians who left Urras had been wrong, wrong in their desperate courage, to deny their history, to forgo the possibility of return.
The explorer who will not come back or send back his ships to tell his tale is not an explorer, only an adventurer; and his sons are born in exile. ” (Chapter 3, Page 89) At an early point during his time on Urras, Shevek laments the resources and abundance that the Anarresti have abandoned. Throughout the text, Shevek conceives a journey to be an act that requires striking out, but also returning; its circular shape has much in common with his Simultaneity Theory. In this instance, he wishes that his countrymen would contemplate return to Urras, just as he already contemplates his return to Anarres.
8. “Did such people actually exchange ideas with free people in a nonaggressive, voluntary manner? Could they really admit equality and participate in intellectual solidarity, or were they merely trying to dominate, to assert their power, to possess? ” (Chapter 4, Page 109) On Anarres, Sabul tells Shevek he wishes to send his manuscript to Urras. Shevek is shockedand wonders if intellectual exchange is possible in a capitalistic society. He will discover the possibilities and limits of exchange on Urras when he ventures there.
9. “And the strangest thing about the nightmare street that none of the millions of things for sale were made there. They were only sold there. Where were the workshops, the factories, where were the farmers, the craftsmen, the miners, the weavers, the chemists, the carvers, the dryers, the designers, the machinists, where were the hands, the people who made? ” (Chapter 5, Page 132) Shevek considers Nio’s shopping district to be a “nightmare. ” He is worried at the price of many goodsbut more shocked that the artisans who devote their lives to craft are hidden from the public eye. This experience makes him determined to see the “real” Nio.
10. “Here in A-Io they fear me less because they have forgotten the revolution…They think if people can possess enough things they will be content to live in prison. But I will not believe that. I want the walls down. I want solidarity, human solidarity. I want free exchange between Urras and Anarres. I worked for it as I could on Anarres, now I work for it as I can on Urras. ” (Chapter 5, Page 138) When Chifoilisk encourages Shevek to leave A-Io for Thu, Shevek explains that he hopes to accomplish his goals in Nio.
He does not need to venture to Thu, a socialist country, because he is familiar with socialism. And although his countrymen fear him for his independence of thought, he believes that the unsuspecting nation of A-Io may be influenced by his ideas and experience.
11. “I want the superiority of Cetian science recognized, the superiority of the Cetian mind. If there has to be an interstellar civilization, then by God, I don’t want my people to be low-caste members of it! ” (Chapter 5, Page 143) The physicist Atro encourages Shevek to share the results of his research only with Cetians.
Here, we see the xenophobia and racism of Urrasti, who seek the urge to dominate the rest of the universe. This attitude will persuade Shevek to share his discoveries with all.
12. “Nothing he did was understood. To put it more honestly, nothing he did was meaningful. He was fulfilling no necessary function, personal or social. ” (Chapter 6, Page 161) Working in isolation on Abbenay, Shevek feels that he is useless. His countrymen don’t understand his research, so he wonders if it has value at all, especially because he lives in a society that puts the collective over the individual.
13. “We have no government, no laws, all right. But as far as I can see, ideas were never controlled by laws and governments, even on Urras…You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them. ” (Chapter 6, Page 165) Bedap shares his revolutionary views with Shevek. He sees the use (and misuse) of power in Anarresti societyand speculates that the root of the cause is that new ideas are not readily tolerated.
14. “Where does he get [power] from? Not from vested authority, there isn’t any […] He gets it from the innate cowardice of the average human mind.
Public opinion! ” (Chapter 6, Page 165) Continuing to debate with Shevek, Bedap asks him where Sabul’s power comes from. It is not from government, or a formal relationship over Shevek. Bedap tells Shevek that it comes from the unwillingness of Anarresti to think for themselves, or to go against those who have accumulated authority in their supposedly-equal society.
15. “‘It’s not our society that frustrates individual creativity. It’s the poverty of Anarres. This planet wasn’t meant to support civilization […] Human solidarity is the only resource. ’” (Chapter 6, Page 167) Shevek disagrees with Bedap’s belief that public opinion and society are to be blamed for Sabul’s power, or Anarres’ hostility to new ideas. Rather, he thinks that the lack of resources has made it difficult for individuals to see the value in pursuing new lines of inquiry or new ways of doing things.
16. “He could not rebel against his society, because his society, properly conceived, was a revolution, a permanent one, an ongoing process. ” (Chapter 6, Page 176) Bedap believes that Odinian society has developed power structures and curtailed individual freedom.
Shevek, by contrast, thinks that the problem with Odinian society is that it is not currently Odinian enough: Odo’s ideas provide for ongoing revolution as individuals reach new understandings and share them with the collective. In this quote, we see that Shevek believes Anarres need only open itself to the truth of those teachings.
17. “He had often seen that anxiety before in the faces of Urrasti, and wondered about it. Was it because, no matter how much money they had, they always had to worry about making more, lest they die poor? Was it guilt, because no matter how little money they had, there was always somebody who had less? ” (Chapter 7, Page 207) Shevek thinks of his friends on Anarres, and their beautiful faces. The Urrasti have more resources—but they look less happy. He wonders if this is the fault of capitalism.
18. “‘But what it is that you do? ’ ‘Why, run the men, of course! And you know, it’s perfectly safe to tell them that, because they never believe it. ’” (Chapter 7, Page 215) Demarae tells Shevek that women actually hold power over men on Urras. Men simply fail to recognize this because they’re used to thinking of women as silly and inferior. This quote connects to the text’s larger themes of the effects of capitalism on gender hierarchy.
19. “‘I know that you’ve got a—a Queen Teaea inside you, right inside that hairy head of yours. And she orders you around just like the old tyrant did her serfs. ’” (Chapter 7, Page 219) Demarae compares Shevek’s moral system to the governance of a former Urrasti monarch, Queen Teaea. She tells Shevek that, while she is free to rebel against external rules and structures, he is not. Because the source of rules and authority is inside him, he must follow them all the more obediently. She views this system of personal ethics and responsibility as oppressive and tyrannical. This quotation adds to the novel’s interest in individual vs. collective responsibility.
20. “‘…you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes—the wall, the wall! ’” (Chapter 7, Page 229) Drunk at Demarae’s house, Shevek tells the Ioti guests his true feelings. The anxiety he sees in their eyes reflects their imprisonment. This quotation contributes to the novel’s larger interest in imprisonment and freedom, and also explains the title of the novel. While the Urrasti are “possessed” by their possessions, the Anarresti are dis-possessed, free.
21. “They’re against partnerships, you can see it all the time, they intentionally post partners apart. ” (Chapter 8, Page 260) After Takver and Shevek are posted in distant locales, their neighbor tells Shevek that “they”—the PDC—are against partnerships. While monogamy is not the norm on Anarres, there is no philosophical reason to oppose it. The neighbor suggests that social norms, however, have gradually transformed into policy.
22. “On Anarres he had chosen, in defiance of the expectations of his society, to do the work he was individually called to do. To do it was to rebel: to risk the self for the sake of society. Here on Urras, that act of rebellion was a luxury. ” (Chapter 9, Page 272) Shevek contemplates his chosen profession during a hangover.
When Shevek pursues his passion for physics on Anarres, he believes actions are anything but selfish: by affirming the supremacy of the individual will, he is living in line with Odo’s teachings, and urging his countrymen to rethink their customs. As a physicist on Urras, however, he is no longer truly a “rebel”: he is in fact serving the State as he researches and teaches.
23. “‘There’s always somebody willing to make lists. ’” (Chapter 10, Page 312) After working in the Southwest, the “dust,” during the worst of the drought and famine on Anarres, Shevek prepares to return to Abbenay and Takver. He speaks to a truck driver with whom he has hitched a ride. In his role, he was forced to make lists as to who would receive rations and who would not. He feels he directly caused some people to starve. Here, he tells the truck driver that there is always someone willing to take on such a task and thereby ensure their own survival as others die.
24. “‘There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into, and fear of loss, and the wish for power. You cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is “superior” to the other, or trying to prove it… There is no freedom. It is a box—Urras is a box, a package, with all the beautiful wrapping of blue sky and meadows and forests and great cities. And you open the box, and what is inside it? A black cellar full of dust, a dead man. ” (Chapter 11, Page 347) Speaking with the Terran ambassador, Shevek describes Urras—and capitalism—as a prison.
Although it is a prettier prison than many of those discussed and figured within the text, it nonetheless confines its citizens. The concepts of superiority and inferiority are part of what create this prison.
25. “‘Freedom is never very safe. ’” (Chapter 13, Page 364) As Shevek prepares to return to Anarres, he tells the Hanishmen who wishes to accompany him that true freedom is not safe. Being free on Anarres means risking public disapproval, and even bodily harm, because freedom means following one’s own individual will, rather than a set of predetermined laws.